Cool down at these comfortable lodges up on North Carolina's stretch of the parkway.

Blue Ridge's Best Stays (PROMO)
The two-story porch at Balsam Mountain Inn beckons with rocking chairs and hilltop views.

What a delight to spend the night in the Blue Ridge Mountains--there are so many great places to stay up here that it's hard to make a choice. Check out some of our favorite places to check in.

Balsam Mountain Inn, Dillsboro/ Balsam
The Balsam Mountain Inn, set about 35 miles southwest of Asheville in the community of Balsam, charms visitors with rustic grace and sweet simplicity. Similar to Sourwood Inn (see next page), this 50-room lodge lies close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather-worn patina of age makes up a big part of the atmosphere. The inn dates back to 1908, when it first welcomed guests escaping to the mountains.

The inn's delightful owner, Merrily Teasley, put a tremendous amount of sweat equity into fixing up the building yet keeping the improvements true to its plain and beautiful ambience. Wood floors groan, and rocking chairs call out my name from the front porch.

As a result of Merrily's efforts, the place is just eaten up with character. It's probably eaten up with a few other things too. But that's the authentic mountains for you--just at the woods' edge of wild--and precisely what endears the Balsam Mountain Inn to a lot of people.

The restaurant is fabulous--softly lighted, with warm wood tones. It gets an "A" for atmosphere and cuisine, especially the mountain trout. A sumptuous breakfast awaits me in the morning.

Balsam Mountain Inn: P.O. Box 40, Balsam, NC 28707; 1-800-224-9498 or Rates: $115-$170, including breakfast.

Sourwood Inn, Asheville
Surely they can't have placed a charming 12-room lodge in deep woods just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, 20 minutes north of Asheville. But they did, and that makes it all the better.

You're likely to be welcomed by the resident Labrador retrievers. On my visit, I was escorted by two canine companions for a walk in the woods. How can I top this: two dogs by my side as I stroll through the forest, with a breeze slipping through the trees.

I can't top it, but I sure can add to the joy. I'll dine tonight under the stars on Sourwood's patio as crickets and katydids serenade me. Nights are cool and invigorating; I'm glad I packed a pullover sweater. After dinner, I'll retire to my room, start a fire, open the French doors to the balcony, and let the mountain music sing me to sleep.

Sourwood Inn: 810 Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, Asheville, NC 28804; (828) 255-0690 or Rates: $140-$170, double occupancy.

Chetola Mountain Resort, Blowing Rock
What a gorgeous setting. No wonder so many couples (40 or so each year) get married here. The approach road curls around a placid lake and spans a stone bridge up to the entrance. Private homes share the water's-edge view with the lodge's guests. Ducks and geese paddle around the lake, adding to the fairy-tale setting.

Chetola (pronounced cha-TO-la) has much more of a motel look and feel than the other inns. The 42 rooms are air-conditioned and have televisions and phones. But it's the setting that merits inclusion here: As with the other two, you're far away from the rest of the world.

Chetola Mountain Resort: North Main Street, Blowing Rock, NC 28605; 1-800-243-8652 or Rates: $123 for a double-occupancy lodge room to $415 for a three-bedroom condo.

This article is from the August 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.